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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Harbaugh’

New in Blue: 2017 LB Drew Singleton

Friday, December 23rd, 2016


(247 Sports)

Drew Singleton – LB | 6-2, 215 | Paramus, N.J. (Paramus Catholic)
ESPN4-star, #3 ILB Rivals: 4-star, #4 OLB 247: 4-star, #5 OLB Scout: 4-star, #4 OLB
247 Composite: 4-star #3 OLB, #66 nationally
Other top offers: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, MSU, Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, ND, Wisconsin

For the second day in a row, Michigan secured a commitment from one of the nation’s top linebackers in the 2017 class. After landing IMG Academy’s Jordan Anthony on Thursday, the Wolverines picked up a commitment from Paramus Catholic linebacker Drew Singleton on Friday evening. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder pledged to join Jim Harbaugh’s class via a tweeted video just after 6pm Eastern.

Singleton is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. Like Anthony, Rivals ranks Singleton the highest as the nation’s 55th-best overall player in the 2017 class and the fourth-best outside linebacker. Scout ranks him 72nd overall and the fourth-best outside linebacker. 247 Sports ranks him 79th and fifth-best, while ESPN ranks him the lowest as the 162nd-best player overall and third-best inside linebacker. He’s the third-best outside backer and 66th-best overall player in the class per the 247 Composite.

Singelton chose Michigan over a group that included Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Penn State, Georgia, Tennessee, and Auburn. He holds offers from most of the nation’s top programs despite missing his senior season at Paramus Catholic with a torn ACL. He hails from the same school that sent Jabrill Peppers, Rashan Gary, Juwann Bushell-Beaty, and linebackers coach Chris Partridge to Michigan the past few years.

Scout lists Singleton’s strengths as aggressiveness, change of direction, and hitting ability while listing his areas to improve as pass coverage skills and tackling technique. Scout’s Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Singleton can play on the edge or in the middle, and is best when playing downhill and filling run gaps. Singleton is physical, and he locates the ball in traffic and he pursues well. He can get to the sideline, and he has quick feet. He finishes plays well and understands how to run a defense. Singleton needs to work on his drop back in pass coverage, but that will come over time.”

Singleton is the 26th member of the class that is filling up fast and the 15th commit on the defensive side. He joins Anthony, Joshua Ross, and Ben Mason as linebackers in the class. His commitment follows on the heels of Anthony’s, defensive end Deron Irving-Bey, IMG center Cesar Ruiz, Detroit Cass Tech receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Connecticut receiver Tarik Black, who have all committed within the past two weeks.

New in Blue: 2017 LB Jordan Anthony

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016


(247 Sports)

Jordan Anthony – LB | 6-0, 220 | Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy)
ESPN4-star, #9 ATH Rivals: 5-star, #1 ILB 247: 4-star, #12 OLB Scout: 4-star, #13 OLB
247 Composite: 4-star #6 OLB, #107 nationally
Other top offers: Oklahoma, Auburn, Penn State, Clemson, Ohio State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech

Michigan continued its Christmas recruiting momentum on Thursday evening with a commitment from highly-rated linebacker Jordan Anthony. The IMG Academy star announced his commitment via a video shortly before 7:30pm Eastern time.

Anthony is a four-star according to ESPN, 247 Sports, and Scout, but Rivals has given him the extra fifth star. They rank him as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the class. ESPN ranks him as the ninth-best athlete, 247 as the 12th-best outside linebacker, and Scout as the 13th-best outside backer. All four sites rank Anthony among the top 250 overall recruits in the 2017 class with Rivals ranking him the highest at 26th. ESPN ranks him 123rd, Scout 185th, and 247 208th. He’s a four-star, the nation’s sixth-best outside linebacker, and 107th-best overall player according to the 247 Composite.

Anthony chose Michigan over a top group that also included Auburn, Oklahoma, Penn State, and Maryland. He also held offers from Clemson, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech, to name a few. Anthony officially visited Michigan the week of the Wisconsin game and received a visit from Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge on Dec. 6.

Scout lists Anthony’s strengths as athleticism, change of direction, and instincts while listing his areas to improve as pass coverage skills and strength. Scout’s Brian Dohn raves about his athleticism.

“Anthony does so many things well, but what stands above all else is his ability to tackle in space. If it 1-on-1 with a running back, he is winning it. He changes direction well, has the ability to find the ball carrier in traffic, and he gets off blocks well. He can blitz from the edge or the middle, and he can chance down on the backside. He has very good instincts and should be a tremendous weakside linebacker in college.”

Anthony is the 25th member of Michigan’s 2017 class and the 14th on the defensive side of the ball, joining Joshua Ross and Ben Mason as linebackers in the class. His commitment follows on the heels of defensive end Deron Irving-Bey, IMG teammate, center Cesar Ruiz, Detroit Cass Tech receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Connecticut receiver Tarik Black.

New in Blue: 2017 DE Deron Irving-Bey

Monday, December 19th, 2016


(Sean Scherer, 247 Sports)

Deron Irving-Bey – DE | 6-5, 282 | Flint, Mich. (Southwestern Commencement Academy)
ESPN4-star, #18 DT Rivals: 3-star, #18 SDE 247: 4-star, #5 SDE Scout: 4-star, #24 DE
247 Composite: 4-star #9 SDE
Other top offers: Michigan State, Tennessee, Maryland, Pitt, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Toledo

After gaining a commitment from the nation’s top center, Cesar Ruiz, earlier in the afternoon, Michigan landed a commitment from one of the nation’s top defensive ends. Deron Irving-Bey announced his intention to play for the Wolverines at 4pm Eastern time on Monday, giving Jim Harbaugh the top six players in the state of Michigan.

Irving-Bey is a four-star recruit according to ESPN, Scout, and 247 and a three-star according to Rivals. 247 ranks him the highest as the fifth-best strong side defensive end in the 2017 class. ESPN ranks him as the 18th-best defensive tackle, while Scout ranks him as the 24th-best defensive end. Rivals ranks him as the 18th-best strong side end. He’s the ninth-best strong side end and 270th-best overall player in the class per the 247 Composite.

The Flint, Mich. native chose the Wolverines over in-state rival Michigan State. He also held offers from Tennessee, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Toledo, to name a few. He took an unofficial visit to Michigan the weekend of the Wisconsin game and took his official last weekend, solidifying his decision.

Scout lists Irving-Bey’s strengths as athleticism, quickness off ball, and size, while listing his area to improve as technique and moves. That’s a good thing because technique and moves can be taught at the college level, while traits like size and athleticism are mostly what they are at this point. Scout expanded on their analysis.

“Kid with a great frame that continues to fill out. Projected as an offensive tackle early in his career and could still play there, but future seems increasingly more likely to be on defense. Long arms, naturally bends well and moves well. Gets off the ball quickly and plays with a good motor. Still developing technique and using his hands better. The bigger he gets, the more likely it is he’s a five-tech or maybe even a three for some schools, but an attractive package of skills.”

Irving-Bey is the 24th member of the 2017 class and the 13th on the defensive side, ending a string of three straight on offense over the past few days. He joins James Hudson, Donovan Jeter, Kwity Paye, Luiji Vilain, and Corey Malone-Hatcher as defensive linemen in the class.

New in Blue: 2017 C Cesar Ruiz

Monday, December 19th, 2016


(Andrew Ivins, 247 Sports)

Cesar Ruiz – C | 6-3, 315 | Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy)
ESPN4-star, #1 C Rivals: 4-star, #1 C 247: 4-star, #1 C Scout: 4-star, #2 C
247 Composite: 4-star #1 C
Other top offers: Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, FSU, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

After grabbing two of the nation’s top receivers last week in Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan missed out on one of the top offensive tackles in Isaiah Wilson, who chose Georgia. Today, the Wolverines bounced back with a commitment from the No. 1 center in the nation, Cesar Ruiz. The Bradenton, Fla. resident pledged his commitment to Michigan just after noon Eastern on Monday.

Ruiz is a consensus four-star according to the four major recruiting services. All but Scout rank him the top center in the 2017 class, while Scout ranks him second behind Texas Tech commit Jack Anderson. 247 Sports ranks Ruiz the highest nationally as the 66th best overall player in the class. ESPN ranks him 69th, Rivals 77th, and Scout 100th. He’s the No. 1 center and 58th-best overall player in the class according to the 247 Composite.

Ruiz, who is originally from Camden, N.J., chose the Wolverines over a final group that also included Florida and Auburn. Michigan has long been considered the favorite to land Ruiz despite the 6-foot-3, 315-pounder holding offers from most of the nation’s top schools, including Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M, to name a few.

Scout lists Ruiz’s strengths as body control and balance, explosion, and quickness off ball, while listing his areas to improve as flexibility and technique. Scout’s Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Ruiz plays with a low pad level and explodes well. He is quick to the second level and his agility allows him to manipulate his body and make square blocks on smaller targets. He has a strong initial punch and once engaged, he drives his legs and turns the defensive play to open a hole. He retreats well in pass protection and he reads blitzes well. Adding more knee bend and getting his hands inside more are key to his development.”

Ruiz is the 23rd member of the 2017 class and the 11th on the offensive side of the ball, joining Ja’Raymond Hall, Andrew Stueber, Joel Honigford, Phillip Paea, and Kai-Leon Herbert as offensive linemen in the class. It’s rare for a true freshman to start on the offensive line, but with most of this season’s line departing and not much proven depth behind them, there’s a chance for that to happen next fall.

What can Michigan expect from Peoples-Jones? History is kind to nation’s top receivers — except at USC

Friday, December 16th, 2016


(Getty Images)

On Thursday night Michigan reeled in five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, adding to an already impressive recruiting class. The Detroit Cass Tech star is the third receiver in the class but he’s also the highest-rated as the nation’s top receiver according to 247 Sports. So what can Michigan fans expect from Peoples-Jones in the maize and blue? A look at the history of the nation’s No. 1 wideout gives a lot of reason for excitement.

More than any other position on the field, receivers tend to produce the earliest when they arrive on campus. In a simplistic view, the position — more than any other — relies more on athleticism than a need to learn at the college level. Of course, route running, technique, strength, and a connection with the quarterback are important traits that can be developed in college, but an uber athletic receiver with good size and speed can produce right away.

Since 2000, the No. 1 receivers in the nation according to 247 Sports have produced an average of 34 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns in their first season of action. By comparison, as a senior, Jehu Chesson caught 31 passes for 467 yards and two scores as a senior this season (with a bowl game yet to play). That means that if Peoples-Jones performs just average as a true freshman compared to the past 17 No. 1 receivers, he would have been the third-leading receiver on Michigan’s roster this season. It gets better.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – by year
Freshman Season College Career
Year Name School Rec Yds TDs Rec Yds TDs
2016 Demetris Robertson Cal 50 767 7 50* 767* 7*
2015 Calvin Ridley Alabama 89 1,045 7 155* 1,772* 14*
2014 Speedy Noil Texas A&M 46 583 5 88* 1,134* 9*
2013 Laquon Treadwell Ole Miss 72 608 5 202 2,393 21
2012 Dorial Green-Beckham Missouri 28 395 5 87 1,278 17
2011 George Farmer USC 4 42 0 30 363 4
2010 Kyle Prater USC 1^ 6^ 0^ 71 654 2
2009 Rueben Randle LSU 11 173 2 97 1,634 13
2008 Julio Jones Alabama 58 924 4 179 2,653 15
2007 Terrence Toliver LSU 10 249 3 126 1,820 12
2006 Percy Harvin Florida 34 427 2 133 1,929 13
2005 Patrick Turner USC 12 170 2 138 1,752 17
2004 Early Doucet LSU 18 257 2 160 1,943 20
2003 Whitney Lewis USC 3 16 0 3 16 0
2002 Ryan Moore Miami 44 637 3 49 800 8
2001 Roscoe Crosby Clemson 23 396 3 23 396 3
2000 Charles Rogers Michigan State 67! 1,470! 14! 135 2,821 27
*Still in college
^Redshirted freshman season (redshirted due to injury)
! Sophomore season (academically ineligible for freshman season)

An anomaly among the previous 17 top receivers in the nation has been those who committed to Southern Cal. Four of them — George Farmer in 2011, Kyle Prater in 2010, Patrick Turner in 2005, and Whitney Lewis in 2003 — performed well below average. Those four averaged just five receptions for 58.5 yards and half a touchdown.

Farmer switched to running back, tore his ACL and MCL his sophomore season, and finished his career with just 30 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Prater redshirted as a freshman due to nagging injuries and then transferred to Northwestern. He had originally committed to Pete Carroll, but didn’t stick it out with Lane Kiffin. Turner had the best freshman season of any of the four, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and went on to a decent career and a third-round draft pick. Lewis — like Farmer — was switched to running back for most of his freshman season before moving back to receiver where he caught just three passes for 16 yards. He sat out his sophomore season while academically ineligible and didn’t catch another pass in his career.

With four of the five worst freshman seasons among the last 16 No. 1 receivers nationally coming from USC — the other was LSU’s Rueben Randle, who caught 11 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman –, it’s worth looking at the freshman year production average without the USC guys. If they had all not been from one school, we couldn’t do this. But when it’s isolated to one program, we can reasonably assume that it’s more of a reflection of the program than the player.

The 13 non-USC commits averaged 42 receptions for 610 yards and five touchdowns as freshmen. A performance like that would have been very similar to Jake Butt’s 43 receptions for 518 yards and four scores.

Nation’s No. 1 receiver since 2000 – averages
Receptions Yards Touchdowns
All 17 34 480 4
Jehu Chesson 2016 31 467 2
Minus USC commits 42 610 5
Jake Butt 2016 43 518 4

Three of the 17 No. 1 receivers since 2000 would have been Michigan’s leading receiver this season — Julio Jones, who caught 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns for Alabama in 2008; Calvin Ridley, who caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven scores for the Crimson Tide last season; and Charles Rogers, who caught 67 passes for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2001. Last year’s No. 1 receiver, Demetris Robertson, had very similar numbers to Michigan’s leading receiver, Amara Darboh, catching 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns for California this fall.

Beyond just the freshman season, the nation’s No. 1 receivers have largely had outstanding college careers. Most of them didn’t stay all four years, but they averaged 102 catches for 1,461 yards and 12 touchdowns over their careers. Michigan State’s Charles Rogers turned in a two-year total of 2,821 yards, which would rank third in Michigan career receiving history. Jones’ 2,653 in three seasons would rank fifth and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell’s 2,393 in three years would also rank fifth. Keep in mind that Michigan’s top four — Braylon Edwards, Anthony Carter, Jeremy Gallon, and Amani Toomer — all played all four seasons in Ann Arbor.

Of the 14 who are no longer in college, eight were drafted by the NFL — all in the top three rounds and four in the first round. Seven of them are still in the league.

Before Peoples-Jones’ commitment, the highest rated receiver Michigan had ever landed was Mario Manningham, who was the nation’s sixth-best receiver in the 2005 class. He turned in a 27-catch, 433-yard, six-touchdown freshman performance and ranks sixth in Michigan’s career receiving books.

Michigan’s top 10 receiver commitments in recruiting ranking era
Year Name Position Rank National Rank
2017 Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 11
2005 Mario Manningham 6 50
2001 Tim Massaquoi 7 47
2014 Drake Harris 7 67
2005 Antonio Bass 8 56
2008 Darryl Stonum 10 48
2004 Doug Dutch 10 71
2009 Je’Ron Stokes 10 90
2007 Toney Clemons 12 96
2002 Jason Avant 13 117

If recent history holds true, Michigan fans can expect a productive year from Peoples-Jones next fall and a solid career. He also comes in at the right time with the Wolverines losing their top three pass catchers to graduation. Jim Harbaugh has shown that he’s willing to play true freshman receivers as Grant Perry caught 14 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown in 2015 and Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom combined for 9 catches for 106 yards and one score this fall, in addition to McDoom’s success on jet sweeps. The roster is certainly wide open for a go-to outside receiver and Peoples-Jones seems primed to fill that spot.

A high ranking doesn’t always guarantee success, and some of the best receivers in Michigan history weren’t ranked highly, but the recent history of the nation’s top receivers are good news for Michigan fans.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Thursday, December 15th, 2016


(Brandon Brown)

Donovan Peoples-Jones – WR | 6-2, 193 | Detroit, Mich. (Cass Technical)
ESPN4-star, #4 WR Rivals: 5-star, #2 WR 247: 5-star, #1WR Scout: 5-star, #4 WR
247 Composite: 5-star #1 WR
Other top offers: Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, Florida, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, USC

Yesterday, Michigan pulled in four-star receiver Tarik Black of Cheshire, Conn. Today, Jim Harbaugh bolstered his receiving corps even further with a commitment from the top receiver in the country, Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Detroit Cass Tech star pledged his commitment to the Wolverines live on ESPN2 on Thursday evening.

Peoples-Jones is a five-star according to 247, Rivals, and Scout, and a four-star according to ESPN. Scout ranks him as the top receiver in the country, Rivals second, and Scout and ESPN fourth. All four have him among the top 32 overall players in the nation with 247 ranking him the highest at eighth. Rivals ranks him 13th, ESPN 27th, and Scout 32nd. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the top receiver and the 11th-best overall player in the 2017 class.

The 6-foot-2, 193-pound receiver committed to Michigan over a top five that also included rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, Orange Bowl foe Florida State, and 2017 season-opening opponent Florida. He also held offers from most of the other national powers, including Alabama, Clemson, LSU, USC, and Stanford, to name a few.

Scout lists Peoples-Jones’ strengths as body control, elusiveness with catch, and speed, while listing his area to improve as strength. Scout’s Allen Trieu raves about his potential.

“Exceptional athlete with above-average size, but top notch speed, explosiveness and outstanding leaping ability. Shows the ability to make tough grabs downfield with defenders on him, and has excellent body control and ball tracking skills. Must still get stronger and continue to polish his route-running, but has all of the physical tools to be a go-to receiver in college.”

Peoples-Jones joins Black and Brad Hawkins as receivers that will head to Ann Arbor in 2017. He’s the 22nd player in the class and the 10th on the offensive side. He doesn’t have quite the size of Black, but there’s a reason he’s rated higher across the board. While Black projects to be more of a possession receiver, Peoples-Jones has a chance to be a star go-to receiver. Together, they form a great receiving haul that will challenge for playing time after the loss of seniors Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh.

With two in the fold this week, Michigan will hope for more good news when five-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson announces his commitment at noon Eastern tomorrow.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Tarik Black

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016


2016 Champions Football Camp (Ian Behune)

Tarik Black – WR | 6-4, 208 | Cheshire, Conn. (Cheshire Academy)
ESPN4-star, #31 WR Rivals: 4-star, #10 WR 247: 4-star, #29WR Scout: 4-star, #13 WR
247 Composite: 4-star #17 WR
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, Stanford, UCLA, Georgia, ND, Wisconsin, WVU, Tennessee

To kick off what could be a huge recruiting week for Michigan, the Wolverines received a commitment from receiver Tarik Black on Wednesday afternoon. The Cheshire, Conn. native pledged his commitment during a ceremony at his high school and then posted the announcement video on Twitter.

Black is a consensus four-star according to the four major recruiting services. Rivals ranks him the highest as the nation’s 10th-best wide receiver. Scout ranks him 13th, 247 ranks him 29th, and ESPN ranks him 31st. He’s in the top 200 overall according to three of the four, with Rivals listing him 76th overall, Scout 99th, 247 197th, and ESPN the lone outsider at 223rd. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the nation’s 17th-best receiver and the 124th-best overall player in the class.

The 6-foot-4, 208-pound receiver selected Michigan over a final group that consisted of Alabama, Auburn, Stanford, and UCLA. He also held offers from Wisconsin, Georgia, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Tennessee, to name a few. Black’s high school, Cheshire Academy, hosted one of Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camps last summer. He then took an official visit to Michigan for the season opener against Hawaii and received a visit from Harbaugh last week.

Scout lists Black’s strengths as ability to beat jams, hands and concentration, and size, while listing his areas to improve as blocking ability and strength — both aspects that he can improve upon at the college level. Scout’s Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Black is a big target who tracks the ball well and high-points his catches. He goes over the middle and can also get down the field. He has big hands to secure the ball and tucks it quickly. He gets off the line well and is quick in and out of breaks. He knows how to use his size against the defensive backs. He needs to add strength to be more physical down the field and also to be a more effective blocker.”

Black is the second receiver commitment that will head to Ann Arbor next year, joining Brad Hawkins, who reclassified from the 2016 class and attended Suffield Academy (N.J). He’s the 21st member of the class and the ninth on the offensive side of the ball after the Wolverines lost a commitment from running back A.J. Dillon earlier in the day.

Black’s size will give him a chance to compete for a role next fall with the departure of senior receivers Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. He’ll be the tallest scholarship receiver on the roster along with Drake Harris, but he’s also 20 pounds heavier than Harris was this season. By comparison, Chesson was an inch shorter and five pounds lighter and Darboh was two inches shorter and seven pounds heavier.

The big recruiting week continues tomorrow with an announcement from the state of Michigan’s top player and the top receiver in the country, Cass Tech’s Donovan Peoples-Jones. He will make his announcement live on ESPN around 8:30pm Eastern. His list is narrowed down to the Wolverines, rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, Orange Bowl foe Florida State, and next year’s season opener, Florida.

Michigan to face Florida State in Orange Bowl

Sunday, December 4th, 2016


michigan-vs-florida-state-header

Michigan missed out on the College Football Playoff, but still earned a spot in one of the prestigious New Years Six bowl games and gets an intriguing matchup against another traditional power. The Wolverines will face 11th-ranked Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

Meet the teams

At this time two years ago Michigan’s season was over and a coaching search was just beginning. The Wolverines would watch rival Ohio State run the table to a national championship, but not before luring Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL.dalvin-cook

In a short two years, Harbaugh has transformed the culture of the program the way his mentor, Bo Schembechler, did 45 years prior. Harbaugh proceeded to double Michigan’s win total in his first season and then match that again this fall, and on Dec. 30 he has a chance to improve upon that with an 11th win for just the 10th time in program history. In fact, it would be just the seventh time in program history that the Wolverines won at least 21 games in a two-year span.

Yet, the Orange Bowl feels like a letdown. Michigan had a legitimate argument for an inclusion in the College Football Playoff with two losses, both on the road and both on the last play of the game, by a combined four points, and as many top-10 wins as any team in the country. But when the CFP committee released its rankings on Sunday afternoon, one of those losses proved too much to overcome ACC champion Clemson and Pac-12 champion Washington, both of which had just one loss.

When Michigan got left out of the BCS championship game following the 2006 season they saw the Rose Bowl matchup with USC as a consolation prize and played like they didn’t want to be there. USC won 32-18. This time around, they’re taking the perceived snub as a chance to make a statement against another college football blueblood.

Florida State began the season ranked fourth nationally and quickly ascended to second after knocking off Ole Miss and Charleston Southern. Then, they ran into Louisville and the Cardinals kicked off a 3-3 stretch that saw FSU also lose to North Carolina and Clemson wrapped around wins over USF, Miami, and Wake Forest.

The Seminoles won four straight to close the season, topping N.C. State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Florida to climb back to the cusp of the top 10 entering bowl season.

Scouting report

As a team, Florida State’s offense ranks 24th nationally in total offense (345.1 yards per game), 32nd in scoring offense (35.3 points per game), 39th in rushing (206.8 yards per game), and 29th in passing (267.6 yards per game). The main weakness is the offensive line, which has allowed 34 sacks — the same number as Rutgers and more than only 16 teams nationally.

FSU is lead by junior running back Dalvin Cook, the nation’s seventh-leading rusher, who averages 135 yards per game. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in eight of the last nine games with two of those over 200.

Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois ranks 30th nationally with 260.7 passing yards per game and 36th nationally with a pass efficiency of 143.7 — one spot behind Wilton Speight.

Florida State’s defense ranks 29th nationally in total defense (357.2 yards per game), 43rd in scoring (24.4 points per game), 27th against the run (131.3 yards per game), and 65th against the pass (225.9 yards per game). Although those numbers aren’t great, the Seminoles are 16th in third-down defense (33.8 percent) and they lead the nation with 47 sacks — three more than Michigan.

Senior defensive end Demarcus Walker leads the nation with 15 sacks (14 solo) and ranks 18th with 17.5 tackles for loss. He’ll be a handful for Michigan’s offensive line.

Way too early prediction

Michigan opened as a 6.5 point favorite and should have a fully healthy offense with Wilton Speight getting a month to heal his left shoulder. That should allow the offense to function at full capacity — it’s clear that it wasn’t at Ohio State a week ago. Florida State’s pass defense has surrendered over 200 yards in half of their contests and over 300 yards four times. By comparison, Michigan’s defense has allowed over 200 yards passing twice with a high of 281 against Maryland. With a fully healthy Speight, I like Michigan’s chances of moving the ball.

Defensively, Michigan’s defense has done a good job this season of shutting down individual running backs. Cook may be the best they’ve faced this season, but they held Saquon Barkley to 59 yards on 15 carries, Corey Clement to 68 yards on 17 carries, and Mike Weber to 26 yards on 11 carries. L.J. Scott managed 139 yards, but that’s an outlier against 11 others. Francois isn’t a major threat to run the ball, so the Wolverines won’t have the same issues they faced against Ohio State. And Michigan boasts the nation’s best pass defense, allowing just 135.9 yards per game. With their pass rush and FSU’s porous offensive line, Francois won’t have much time to throw the ball.

Michigan has an edge on both sides of the ball and — like last year — it’s hard to pick against Harbaugh with a month to prepare. The Wolverines entered last year’s Citrus Bowl hoping to beat Florida and they demolished the Gators. I don’t expect as big a margin this time around, but there’s no reason not to expect a Michigan win.

The Numbers Game: U-M big play offense fizzles, defense holds Bucks below average

Friday, December 2nd, 2016


um-defense-vs-osu(Dustin Johnson, Maize ‘n Brew)

Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1, While UCF loaded the box Michigan went to the air for big plays, Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks, UM’s smothering defense narrows gap between 2015 D’s big play pace, U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar, U-M’s dynamic big-play offense stalls in Iowa loss, U-M offense, defense remain among nation’s best entering The Game

Let me get this out of the way first: while the officiating was egregious, it was NOT why Michigan lost last Saturday’s game. It sure didn’t help when Ohio State was getting the calls on identical plays where Michigan wasn’t, but in comparison to the three turnovers it was insignificant. You simply cannot turn the ball over three times, especially on the road, and expect to win. Take away just one of the interceptions and Michigan wins comfortably in regulation. Regardless, it was a game that came down to the wire and Michigan had shot itself in the foot too many times to win and still almost pulled out a win. Heartbreaking? Absolutely. But let’s not forget that just two years ago this was a 5-7 team.

Now, some good news. Michigan racked up an absurd 13 total tackles for loss and eight — yes EIGHT — sacks. They held a potent OSU offense that was averaging over 11 big plays per game to eight — two of which came in overtime. The bad news is the offense couldn’t generate many big plays of their own, recording just three total — one run and two pass. That’s well below their season average of 11.36 coming in. Add in losing the turnover battle three to one and Michigan’s toxic differential this game was minus-7, a far cry from their per game average of plus-6 coming in.

Losing both the big play battle and the turnover battle, on the road, is not a recipe for winning and yet they were still there in the end and could have won. Despite all that, with some chaos this weekend there is an ever so slight chance Michigan could make the playoff. #HarbaughEffect #DonBrownEffect

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 83 45 128 14.71% 4.67% 59
2015 43 42 85 10.25% -0.70% -4

Michigan’s three  total big plays is by far the lowest total of the year. Wilton Speight’s undisclosed injury likely led to no downfield shots and a contributing factor for the lack of big plays, but that is neither here nor there.

For the 2016 regular season Michigan averaged 6.92 explosive runs per game (27th nationally) and 3.75 explosive passes (46th) for a total of 10.67 explosive plays per game (24th) with a big play percentage of 14.71 percent (28th) and a total toxic differential of 59 — good for eighth on a per game basis.

The last three weeks of the season have seen Michigan drop dramatically in all of those metrics, from 12th to 27th in explosive runs, 14th to 46th in passes, second to 24th overall big plays, and 4th to 28th for big play percentage. Not ideal, as the end of the year is not when you want to see your team come back down to Earth, but as I said above, two years ago this was a 5-7 team. For some additional context, and to help hammer home the point that Jim Harbaugh is indeed building a DeathStar with this program let’s look at the 2015 end of regular season numbers.

The 2015 Michigan offense averaged 3.58 explosive runs per game and 3.5 explosive passes for a total of 7.08 explosive plays per game. Their big play percentage was 10.25 percent and their total toxic differential was minus-4.

The 2016 run game took huge leap forward, almost doubling the per game output, the pass game got slightly better and the overall was 50 percent better than last year’s at this point. Their toxic differential went from a negative to a very large positive (-4 to 59) and we’re only scratching the surface of what Jim Harbaugh is bringing to Michigan. It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Garbage time

There was no garbage time during this game, and I expect future versions of The Game to stay that way. For the year just over one-third — 35.94 percent — of Michigan’s explosive plays came during garbage time. They did the bulk of their damage before the game got out of hand.

Defensive big play allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.33 1.92 6.25 10.04% 4.67% 59
2015 4.67 2.25 6.92 10.95% -0.70% -4

The defense held its ground during regulation, keeping Ohio State to just six explosive plays, which is right at Michigan’s average coming in and almost half of OSU’s average. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes added two very big plays in overtime and finished the day with those eight explosive runs. Michigan did not allow a single explosive pass.

For the regular season, Michigan’s defense averaged 4.33 explosive runs per game (34th) and 1.92 explosive passes (2nd) for a total of 6.25 explosive plays per game (9th). Their big play against percentage was 10.04 percent and their big play differential was 4.67 percent (16th). Michigan improved upon every single defensive measurement under the tutelage of Don Brown. Not by leaps and bounds, but significant going by rankings.

Their 2015 numbers were 4.67 explosive runs per game and 2.25 explosive passes per game for a total of 6.92 explosive plays given up per game. Their big play against percentage was 10.95 percent and their big play differential was -0.70 percent. In 2016, those would rank, 45th in runs, 10th in passes, and 25th in overall big plays surrendered. Big play against would be 28th compared to this year’s numbers and big play differential would have been 82nd. Michigan had a very good defense last year, and Don Brown came in and managed to improve upon it. Taking out the two overtime explosive runs and this defense held OSU to half their 2015 total versus Michigan. I think it’s safe to say Don Brown knows what he’s doing.

Garbage time

Again, there was no garbage time during this game. For the year Michigan allows 37.84 percent of their big plays during garbage time.

Sacks and tackles for loss

Michigan’s eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss adds to their already impressive season totals. Their 44 total sacks at 3.67 per game both rank second nationally. Their 114 total tackles for loss and 9.5 per game are both first overall. They are the only team to average over nine TFL per game. This is just the first year under Don Brown’s aggressive scheme, and I think it’s safe to say the Michigan defense will find itself amongst the top teams in sacks and TFL as long as he’s in Ann Arbor.

Big plays by down

um-offense-big-plays-by-down-week-13

An explosive play was equally as likely on first down (54) as it is on second down (54). An explosive run was more likely on second (39) than first down (36) and an explosive pass play was slightly more likely on first (18) than second down (15). Third down is highly unlikely to see an explosive run (only 8.43 percent of explosive runs happen on third down) but better than a quarter (26.67 percent) of the explosive pass plays happen on third down.

opp-big-plays-by-down-week-13

On defense, Michigan was also about almost as likely to give up an explosive play on first down (31) than second down (29) with third down a good deal behind (13). They only surrendered one fourth down explosive play. Almost half of the explosive runs given up happen on second down (24), followed by first (20), and then third (7). Explosive pass plays are more likely to occur on first down (11) than second (5), third (6), and fourth (1) downs.

Big play percentage of total yards

Ohio State had six drives with at least one explosive play against Michigan and they scored on three of them. However, during regulation, they had four drives but only scored on one of them. They were two for two during overtime. Michigan had just one drive with at least one explosive play and scored on it. For the year, Michigan has had 82 total drives on which they’ve had at least one explosive play, and they’ve scored on 60 of them, or 73.17 percent of the time. On defense, they’ve surrendered just 20 scores on 54 drives with an explosive play, just 37.04 percent of the time.

What this means is that almost two-thirds of the time an opponent had a drive with an explosive play (which doesn’t happen often) they still can’t score on this Michigan’s defense. Remember, teams are likely to score 75 percent of the time they have an explosive play on a given drive.

Since we do not know Michigan’s bowl fate we cannot take a look ahead at their next opponent so we’ll end our regular season edition with a look at the individual big play leaders.

Michigan’s big play leaders

De’Veon Smith was the overall leader with 22 big plays (all runs), averaging an astounding 19.55 yards per big play. Amara Darboh led the pass catchers in big plays with 16 and a 33.81 yards per big catch average. Freshman Chris Evans was second overall in total and run plays with 17 and Karan Higdon held the highest average per run with 23.9 on his 10 big run plays. Overall, thirteen players recorded at least one explosive run, 10 recorded at least one explosive catch and five had at least one run and one catch.

Butt repeats as best tight end, 9 others earn All-Big Ten honors

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016


butt-vs-osu(Dustin Johnson, Maize ‘n Brew)

On Tuesday evening, Michigan’s defense cleaned up in the Big Ten defensive awards. On Wednesday night, the offense got in on the action.

Senior tight end Jake Butt captured the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award for the second straight season. It was the first time a tight end has repeated the award. Butt was Michigan’s second-leading receiver this season with 43 receptions (29 of which went for first down) for 518 yards and four touchdowns. He set Michigan program records for yards by a tight end (1,618) and receptions by a tight end (135).

Senior right tackle Erik Magnuson joined Butt on the All-Big Ten first team according to the coaches. Senior receiver Amara Darboh, junior center Mason Cole, senior right guard Kyle Kalis, and senior guard/tackle Ben Braden all made the second team, while junior quarterback Wilton Speight was the only Wolverine on the third team. Freshman left guard Ben Bredeson and senior running back De’Veon Smith earned honorable mention honors.

The media had the same breakdown and also added senior receiver Jehu Chesson to its honorable mention list.

All told, 24 of Michigan’s 25 starters earned All-Big Ten honors this season. Remarkably, senior fullback Khalid Hill was the only one left off despite scoring a team-high 12 touchdowns. The Big Ten does not include fullbacks on its All-Big Ten teams.

Like on the defensive side of the ball, Michigan lead all Big Ten teams in All-Big Ten honors on the first through third teams. The Wolverines had seven on offense, while Ohio State had six